About the Book
The year is 1998, and like any other teenager, Jess Flynn is just trying to get through her junior year without drama… but drama seems to keep finding her.
Between a new crush on her childhood best friend, and her younger sister’s worsening health, the only constant is change – and her hometown of Swickley, which feels smaller by the day.
Swickley is getting weirder by the day too. Half the population has been struck down by a mysterious flu. Conversations seem to end awkwardly when Jess enters the room. And then one day, a tiny, sleek black device – with an apple logo on it – falls out of her best friend’s backpack and lands at Jess’s feet.
But the first iPhone won’t exist for another nine years.
Suddenly Jess has more questions than answers about her own life. And as she races to uncover the truth about her family, her friendships, and her town, one thing becomes clear: we all have our own version of reality.
Black Mirror meets My So-Called Life in this fast-paced, timely novel about separating fact from fiction – and the lengths one girl will go to live on her own terms.
About the Author
Anna Carey is the author of Blackbird, Deadfall, and the Eve trilogy. She lives in Los Angeles.
What I Thought
It is quite hard to review this book without spoilers so you may not wish to read my review until you’ve read the book.
A quick summary is that this is a pacy young adult satirical thriller with a focus on real relationships.
First up let’s talk about the title. “This is not the Jess Show” sounds exactly like something a parent would say to their self obsessed teen. But what if it was the Jess Show?
The blurb describes this as “My So Called Life” meets “Black Mirror” and – spoiler – I would add in meets “The Truman Show” (the book has already been optioned for film too). I am a huge MSCL fan and a teen of the 90s so I very much got all the references, e.g. Party of Five, Dawson’s Creek etc (although oddly enough no Jared Leto fangirling appears in this book – did anyone else copy Angela in trying to drink their coffee black with 3 or 4 sugars because he did? …No…just me!).
The flu that is mentioned in the blurb is only a small part of the story so if you are sick of reading about pandemics then thankfully you don’t need to avoid this book. As a medically inclined person I googled the condition that Jess’ sister has mainly because I wanted more detail about what issues it causes. I won’t tell you what I found!
Jess’ circumstances provide a platform for a critique of social media/influencer culture, reality versus portrayed reality, and it also explores what bringing children up in the public eye is like. I think I’d have appreciated a little more subtlety in some of the character portrayals but in having more stereotypical characters the satirical message is made clearer.
I was surprised how calm and non-plussed Jess was throughout much of the book – she definitely did not take her teenage angst lessons from those 90s shows.
At its heart though there is a strong focus on true relationships and Jess and the two main characters she connects with do have you rooting for a happy ending for them all.
But if this is the Jess Show how easy is is it to turn off?
Thank you to Black Crow and Quirk for the gifted copy for the purposes of an honest review.